HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Crews are working around the clock to make sure Pete Taylor Park is ready when the gates open at 11 a.m. Friday for the NCAA regional tournament in Hattiesburg.
The University of Southern Mississippi found out it would be a regional host site on Sunday and crews have been busy since with ticket sales, stadium preparations and team coordination. But, Senior Associate Athletic Director Kent Hegenauer said the department started work on the tournament weeks ago.
"The preparations started weeks ago with the bid process, formalizing our bid and making sure we had everything in order from the total operations," said Hegenauer. "The last couple of days has really been about executing that."
Hegenauer said the biggest advantage of hosting a regional tournament is for the athletic program. "Its the competitive advantage, it is the fact that we have a better chance of advancing in the NCAA Championship."
USM announced tickets for the regional tournament were sold out by Thursday evening, about 48 hours after the university learned it would be a host site. Lynne Firmin with the ticket office said the past week has been the busiest she's seen.
"Lines have been out the door, phones have been ringing off the hook," said Firmin. "It's unbelievable just to see how the city came out just to get tickets for the event, so it's going to be pretty historic."
While ticket sales are a sell-out, USM likely won't see much revenue from hosting the regional contest. USM will receive 25% of the ticket sales from the NCAA, after expenses are taken out.
"Really the economic advantage is to the community and making sure Hattiesburg takes advantage of this," said Hegenauer. "Having it here will go much further in our community. It shows the power Southern Miss athletics has and the wide reach we have as far as being a main economic force in the community."
With rain in the forecast, the grounds crew is ready for a busy weekend. "There's pressure, I've got a great group of guys willing to do what it takes," said Todd Hawkins, Superintendent of Athletic Fields for Southern Miss. "We want it to look nice and represent Southern Miss and Hattiesburg, so we will do what it takes."
"Large amount of teamwork, everyone pitching in for the cause," said Hegenauer. "Hopefully getting wins and moving on to the Super Regionals."